A Cuban blogger who has criticized her government has been denied permission to travel to New York to pick up a prestigious journalism award Wednesday.
Yoani Sanchez writes a blog that gets more than 1 million hits from around the globe every month, and Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world last year. So when Columbia University said it would award her the Maria Moors Cabot Prize special citation, Sanchez asked the Cuban government for permission to travel to New York this week. The government said no. “I don’t let these things drive me crazy,” Sanchez said. “I can’t be at the ceremony, but I travel virtually every day. I’ll celebrate it with friends.” Her blog, Generacin Y, chronicles daily life on the communist island, offering what Columbia calls “a mix of personal observation and tough analysis.” Watch as the blogger runs up against obstacles in Cuba Her commentaries shed light on taboo topics such as harassment and the thriving black market. And she is openly critical of the government. In one recent entry, she complained she can’t find detergent in stores despite warnings about the spread of H1N1 flu. Sanchez writes her blog at home and saves it on a flash drive or laptop. She then wanders Havana trying to get into one of the Cuban cyber cafes or hotel business centers to get her message out.
Yoani Sanchez’s Generacin Y blog
She works, Columbia University said, with “scarce resources and an enormous amount of guts, buying a few minutes here and there on one of the few Internet-connected computers available to Cubans in Havana, quickly downloading and e-mailing her written and video comments to devoted supporters who post the blog in 15 languages.” Sanchez was a pioneer. But now, despite restricted Internet access, there are dozens of independent Cuban bloggers who send posts into cyberspace and spread messages at home by flash drive and CD. It’s not the first time the 34-year-old blogger has won a prestigious award and has been denied travel to receive it. Earlier this year, Sanchez was awarded the Ortega y Gasset Prize in digital journalism in Spain. The Cuban government did not let her go to Madrid to accept the prize in May.
“That’s very unfortunate — unfortunate for her because she deserves to be recognized,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “But also unfortunate for the world because it’s freedom of the press that’s going to really give us the information we need to be able to think about the great issues of global society.” Her blog, written in Spanish, can be found at: www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/. It is also available in English and 16 other languages.